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Living the Legacy: Making Careers in Medicine Accessible to South Side Youth

In 1891, the establishment of the first African-American owned and run private hospital in the United States, Provident Hospital and Training School, was a pivotal moment in the effort to make health care accessible to minorities—a legacy that continues to this day.

“Talent is universal, access is not,” said Myetie Hamilton, former Chairperson and now Executive Director of the Provident Foundation. “Our determination is to provide access and support so underrepresented youth can experience the field and can determine their path in medicine.”

Founded in 1995, the Provident Foundation provides education, opportunities, and access to the medical profession to youth of color on Chicago’s South Side. It also preserves the legacy of its namesake hospital and medical school through archives and exhibitions.

The Provident Foundation has given away 15 $3,000 scholarships over the last five years to high school seniors and college students. It targets youth in middle school and high school by offering exposure and mentoring, bringing them to medical facilities around the city so they can see what various health care professionals, from doctors to dentists, do every day. When students are ready to take the MCAT, the standardized test that determines their admission to medical school, the foundation often foots the bill.

Since 2014, the foundation has also partnered with the University of Chicago Medicine and the Pritzker School of Medicine to help build the minority-to-medicine pipeline.

“There’s evidence in the literature that African-American physicians and those from underrepresented backgrounds are much more likely to go into neighborhoods that are underserved,” said foundation board member James Woodruff, M.D., Dean of Students at the Pritzker School of Medicine. “But the truth is we don’t have an adequate pipeline of those interested in STEM and who want to pursue medicine.”

Hamilton’s grandfather, who established the foundation in 1995, experienced first-hand the importance of representation in health care. Born in the old Provident Hospital, he realized how impactful it was for him to be served by doctors and nurses who looked like him.

Hamilton and Woodruff recently appeared on WVON’s America’s Heroes Group Show, hosted by Cliff Kelley. They were joined by Ryan K. Priester, Director of Community Programs for the Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) at the University of Chicago.

As a core organization in OCE’s Community Programs Accelerator, Provident Foundation is receiving executive hiring and administrative support, leadership training, strategic planning and financial support for two years.

Since its 2014 founding, the Accelerator has helped more than 120 South Side nonprofits to achieve their missions.

In 2014 and 2015, the Provident Foundation funded the University of Chicago’s chapter of HPREP, a high school enrichment program that encourages youth to pursue careers in medicine, doubling the number of participants.

“When health care professionals go back to their communities, they are passionate to help better inform their communities around the importance of health care, and the community, which is now more likely to be open and to listen, is transformed,” said Hamilton.

To learn more about the Provident Foundation or contribute to the effort, visit To learn more about how the University of Chicago is partnering for community impact, visit

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